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September 11th Fund helps AIDS, arts groups

From Peter Viles

NEW YORK (CNN) -- When donors gave money to the September 11th Fund, they may have been unaware it would eventually go to a philharmonic symphony miles from the World Trade Center disaster site. Or that a modern dance company or an AIDS prevention group would benefit from the funds.

The September 11th Fund raised $337 million and does not give the money away directly. Instead, it gives to other charities, which distribute the money, in keeping with this blanket commitment:

The second-largest World Trade Center relief fund awards grants to a variety of nonprofit organizations that are nowhere near Ground Zero. CNNfn's Peter Viles reports (December 5)

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"One-hundred percent of the funds that have been donated to the September 11th Fund will go to the victims of that disaster, their families and their communities," said Joshua Gotbaum, executive director and CEO of the September 11th Fund.

The fund has a broad definition of those communities, and said, in the case of nonprofit groups, it is doing exactly what some large donors asked it to do.

"Institutions like the Ford Foundation, which gave us $5 million, the Mott Foundation, which gave us more than $ 1 million, etc., they say, 'We want you to pay attention to nonprofit institutions -- those institutions that are essential to the fabric of the community,' " Gotbaum said.

So September 11th Fund money has gone to the Brooklyn Philharmonic, which received a loan of $200,000, after government aid to the philharmonic was delayed.

A $100,000 loan went to Mothers' Voices, an AIDS prevention group that canceled a fund-raiser after the attacks. A loan of $33,000 went to the Institute for the Development of Earth Awareness, a $25,000 loan to a modern dance group, Jennifer Muller, and a $6,000 grant for the arts group 3 Legged Dog.

Charity watcher Daniel Borochoff said the grants are stretching the definition of victim.

"We've got nonprofits all over this country that have had to cancel fund-raising events, so if you are going to give a loan to the Brooklyn Philharmonic, you might as well give one to the Los Angeles Philharmonic," Borochoff said.

"So they really need to stay in closer to lower Manhattan and look at some of the indirect victims of this crisis."

Another criticism of the fund is that it appears to be in no rush to give away the $337 million it has raised. To date it has given away $51 million, or 15 percent of what it raised.

The group said that it has no timetable for giving away the rest and that it will continue to evaluate requests and disburse the money based on what it sees as the needs of victims and their communities.


• The September 11th Fund
• Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
• Mothers' Voices
• Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra
• Jennifer Muller
• 3 Legged Dog
• Ford Foundation

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